US expects dissident Chen Guangcheng to leave China soon (B B C)

Date : 2012-05-04 05:54:30

The US state department said Mr Chen had been offered a fellowship at an American university, and it would allow his wife and children to accompany him. Earlier, Beijing said the blind activist could apply to study abroad - paving the way for a resolution to a tense diplomatic stand-off with the US.

 Mr Chen fled house arrest last month and spent six days in the US embassy.

He left but now says he wants to go to the US with his family.

His case has overshadowed high-level US-China talks taking place in Beijing.

"Mr Chen has been offered a fellowship from an American university, where he can be accompanied by his wife and two children," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

She said the US expected Beijing to process their application for travel documents "expeditiously".

"The United States government would then give visa requests for him and his immediate family priority attention," the statement added.

 

Earlier, Xinhua news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin as saying: "If he wishes to study overseas, as a Chinese citizen, he can, like any other Chinese citizens, process relevant procedures with relevant departments through normal channels in accordance with the law."

Following an annual strategic dialogue between the US and China, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "encouraged" by the Chinese statement.

"Progress has been made to help him have the future he wants," she told a news conference in Beijing.

Mrs Clinton also confirmed that the US ambassador in Beijing had spoken to Mr Chen by phone on Friday, and that an embassy doctor had been able to visit him.

Media attack

The dissident is currently in a Beijing hospital, sealed off by Chinese police.

Mr Chen spent a week in the US embassy but left after initially accepting China's assurances of his safety.

However, he subsequently said that he only realised the full extent of the threats against his family members after he left the embassy.

He told the Associated Press news agency that his wife was being followed and filmed by unidentified men whenever she was allowed to leave the hospital.

China had earlier demanded an apology from the US for sheltering Mr Chen in its embassy.

One of China's main official newspapers, the Beijing Daily, accused the dissident of being "a tool and a pawn for American politicians to blacken China".

Mr Chen, 40, is a lawyer who has campaigned against forced abortions and sterilisations of women under China's policy of one child per family.

The case has increasing political resonance in the US. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has said that if reports that Mr Chen had been persuaded to leave the embassy were true, it was "a day of shame for the Obama administration".